New Zealand-born, New York-resident, Billy Apple arrived in New Zealand late last year and began carrying out works of art which eventually took him the length of the country and occupied several months. Reaction everywhere was vigorous. In an art scene where orthodoxies are all too quickly established the presence of Billy Apple serves an important function. Not since the Henry Moore exhibition in 1956 has the work of one man provoked so many people into reconsidering their artistic preconceptions.
Apple's work has moved through a wide range of styles since he came to prominence with his witty bronze fruit and vegetable sculptures in the early 1960s. There has, however, been a common progression through these various styles: a consistent movement to greater austerity and self-discipline in his work.
This is strong meat. The media, hoping to raise a laugh at the expense of art, have hounded Apple during his visit. He has spoken to no one, been seen by no one, informed no one. Wystan Curnow's Report in this issue is the first substantial account of Billy Apple's 1979-1980 works in New Zealand.
Art New Zealand 15 is the latest in the group of major New Zealand art spaces which the art-politician Billy Apple has altered. With its cover 'removed' the magazine is Apple's latest art work, joining the country's public and dealer galleries to make an over-all art-political statement whose details are here discussed by Wystan Curnow: in a work of art.
The heroic days of New Zealand art history were very much bound up with provinces in the south - and particularly with Nelson and Otago. The poet John Caselberg, growing up in Nelson, with many family visits to central Otago, absorbed throughout childhood the spirit of the landscapes and came to know the personalities who had made these areas both their inspiration and their place of work. In a long essay that is a unique blend of autobiography and evocative description Caselberg traces the growth of local art in Nelson and Otago from the period of the early navigators, who carried artists aboard their sailing-ships, through the nineteenth century, the years around the turn of the century, through to the 'thirties, which found Woollaston and McCahon painting their earlier works in those environs. His essay abounds in quotations from letters and journals and articles of the progenitors.